• Day 8 – Building an audience

• Be sure to read the extra article in this section on Search Engine Optimization.


What is your website about?

What information and news does your website contain that is not available anywhere else? What can your website do better than any other website.

Why does it exist?

Probably one of the reasons for the site is to give students the opportunity to learn and practice the principles of web journalism. But to give students that full experience, you want them to have an audience that can react to what they do.

Who is the audience? the primary audience? secondary audiences?

Make a list.

Answering these questions helps you to determine why you are doing what you are doing and who you believe the audience is for your work. What you are doing is saying not who does show up at your site but who should or could. (These are also questions that you should answer in the About page on your site.)

So how do you get those folks to show up at your website?

Good question — and there are many answers.

First, building an audience is a long-term effort. There are many strategies and a few tricks you might be able to pull along the way, but audience building is something that you must commit to and stick with — even when it doesn’t seem like you are making much program.

First, there is search engine optimization (SEO). We have a separate entry here at at JN-21.com on that, and you need to read it.

But, SEO won’t help you too much unless you have the number one audience builder:

Good content that is

  • original
  • relevant
  • interesting
  • timely

You won’t get an audience because people like you or feel sorry for you. You’ll get an audience because you have something they want — something they can’t get anywhere else.

Get in the conversation

Most students are part of a social network, both online and off line. That is, they participate in conversations that interest them. They need to carry this conversation on about news — news about their school, news about the area, news about what concerns them. Consequently, part of the SEO strategy should take place off-site. Your students should be using Facebook and other social networks to widen the circle of people who see their work.

Links — the more people you send away, the more they’ll come back (Google)

Google has made a huge success out of a simple principle: Give people someplace to go, and they’ll come back. Your site should include lots of substantive and relevant links to other information. The more you link, the more you will be linked to — thus helping your search engine rankings. And the more people will come back.

Be part of something larger (that’s why ISONN is important)

Promote – learn the tools and use them



Additional readings and links

Building an audience, in Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenweig, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving and Presenting the Past on the Web.


Discussion questions

1. What specific steps can a student take to promote a story that he or she has written?


Teaching tip

Which people or groups do you want to be your audience for your website? That’s a good discussion to have with your class or your staff. Ask them to name their favorite websites. Why do they like them? What information do they get when they go there? Then turn the discussion to your site. Who do you want to be your audience? What information should you post in order to get that audience to come to the site? Is any other site posting this information?


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